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Disentangling the effects of plea discount and potential trial sentence on decisions to plead guilty
Legal and Criminological Psychology  (IF2.743),  Pub Date : 2019-08-31, DOI: 10.1111/lcrp.12157
Ryan A. Schneider, Tina M. Zottoli

Most criminal convictions are a result of guilty pleas. Concerns have been raised that large differentials between plea and potential trial sentences can be coercive to some defendants, especially when the threat of potential trial sentence is very large. The limited research, to date, suggests that the likelihood of pleading guilty goes up with increasing size of potential trial sentence. However, existing studies have failed to separate the effects of trial sentence and plea discount; as a result, in almost all studies, large potential trial sentences are paired with large discounts and small trial sentences with small discounts, making it difficult to know how the threat of trial sentence actually affects defendant decisions.